Madrona Venture Labs taps Elowitz as MD

Seattle-based startup studio Madrona Venture Labs has named Ben Elowitz as managing director. Elowitz is the co-founder of Blue Nile and Wetpaint.


SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Madrona Venture Labs today announced that Ben Elowitz is joining the team as Managing Director. Elowitz joins Madrona Venture Labs (MVL) as the group prepares for the launch of its new accelerator program in the innovation space on Madrona’s new 33rd floor.

Elowitz is a well known, two-time founder and early stage startup entrepreneur. Together with Managing Director, Mike Fridgen and CTO Jay Bartot, the team will work to foster more founder led company expansions.

Elowitz co-founded two companies, Blue Nile and Wetpaint, and was an early employee in one of the first e-commerce companies, Fatbrain. Through these experiences, Elowitz learned what it takes to identify market opportunities, raise money, and build and grow companies. Elowitz’s vision and network across the nationwide startup ecosystem will be incredibly valuable to MVL founders and companies. Over the last decade, Ben has been an active angel investor and hands on advisor and CEO coach for startups on the West Coast.

“I’ve been awed to see the entrepreneurial talent and energy that has been building here in Seattle over the last five years. Madrona Venture Labs has been increasingly right at the center of it and it’s a thrill to come on board and play a part in helping founders shape and grow their ideas,” commented Elowitz. “Through the experienced team and venture backers, this model gives founders every advantage in building an extraordinary company.”

Elowitz joins Mike Fridgen, who took leadership of Madrona Venture Labs in 2015. “We have been founder and operator led since the beginning and that’s a very specific kind of approach. Truly understanding what it’s like to be in our founders’ shoes — the ups, the downs, making the sacrifices and trade-offs to give their company and team the best chances for success. I’m excited to have Ben join the team which will both expand our ability to provide hands on support and build upon our growing community of founders and investors.”

Later this summer, MVL will be moving to a larger space that Madrona Venture Group is developing as part of the venture firm’s commitment to the startup community and to increase the innovation space available to founders and teams in the Seattle area. The expanded space enables MVL to add team members and host more events. The space will also host the companies that are accepted into MVL’s accelerator program, which is accepting applications now for launch in Fall 2018.

Having launched a stream of spinout companies in the last three years under Fridgen and Bartot’s leadership, the team has been constantly working to streamline the process for generating, testing and killing ideas and refining the elements that are required for a new successful startup. The team has taken hundreds of ideas through their process over the past few years, selecting the very best to develop and become active spinouts. Additionally, the team has expanded their community by creating events such as Open Pitch, a “pitch off“ of possible company ideas which most recently attracted over a hundred audience members, and more involved technical events such as the GoVertical Startup Creation events, during which 8 ML/AI companies are formed over a single weekend.

Labs team members are former founders and experts in their fields, front end, back end, UI, marketing, etc. Small teams are created to work on ideas, test demand, build a minimum viable product, and get customer feedback. The best ideas move forward to build out the product and customer base prior to a company spin out and fundraise. Companies that have spun out of Madrona Venture Labs include MightyAI, MessageYes (acquired by Nordstrom), Essential, Domicile, Spruce Up, and a soon-to-be announced company.

“Contrary to popular lore building a company takes years and years of hard work. Our companies are all in their very early days and we are excited to continue to work on new ideas, contributing to the startup ecosystem in Seattle and beyond,” commented Jay Bartot, CTO.

About Madrona Venture Labs
Madrona Venture Labs is a startup studio housed at Madrona Venture Group in Seattle, WA. Madrona Venture Labs brings together the best from a startup studio and a venture firm – testing and validating ideas, growing the winners through customer traction, and adding capital and talent to turn the most promising concepts into thriving companies. The team is comprised of experienced and entrepreneurial founders, product leaders, designers, and engineers.

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